Device Can Prevent Damaging Sewage Floods

Craft-Turney Water Supply Corp. wishes it had one small device outside its building on Jan. 13, 2001 -- a weekend the employees will never forget.

Nearly 500 gallons of raw sewage flooded the building from two toilets.

"The majority of it was back here in the main room," Rhonda Briggs, the office manager, said. "Of course, it damaged the wall. It seeped out the back of the building, the back door. We had to do all the repairs to the walls. And the smell was prevalent for months."

To prevent a disaster like that from happening again, the company decided to hire a plumber to install a blackflow preventer.

"As the sewage goes through, the flapper opens up," John Wheless, the owner of Miracle Plumbing, said. If the sewage seems to back up or try to come backwards, the flapper would close, preventing the sewage from going back into the facility."

The system costs about $400 -- not a lot of money, when you compare it to the costs of repairing the damages after a sewage flood.

"It was thousands of dollars to repair the building, but it's a very... I would highly recommend putting a backflow on your business," Briggs said.

But not every home or business needs a blackflow preventer. It depends on your building's location.

"If you're on, if they have a sewer line that's on a pressure system, you have a chance of having water pumped back into your house," Wheless said. "If you're on a bottom of a hill on a sewer system, you'd have a chance of gravity feeding it back in."

Contrary to popular belief, a blackflow preventer does not come standard with all new homes. There is no city ordinance that requires builders to install one.

The blackflow preventer requires little maintenance. If the flapper breaks, it costs only about $5 to $10 dollars to replace it.

To find out if a blackflow preventer is a good idea for your home or business, just call your local plumber.

Julie Tam, reporting.